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Yes: This is about affordable housing and more

The Lakeville Journal Editorial

This editorial space has been filled so many times with reasons why affordable housing is so very necessary for our region that it would almost seem superfluous to even mention it again. On Sept. 9, 2021, we made the case that no matter the many objections to such housing, it is in high demand in every area town where it exists, in any number of units.

So those reasons to keep affordable housing unbuilt in Northwest Corner towns should recede into the background of endless discussion. After all, if every housing proposal is immediately met with multiple reasons why housing can’t possibly go in that particular spot, nothing will ever get done. If opponents don’t like the options from their local planners, just wait until the state or federal governments step in because the towns can’t get it together.

This should be the year, in our ongoing wish list, when the towns will be able to follow through with concrete steps to accomplish their stated goal of having more places for working people, including but not exclusively young people and families, to work and live. If that’s going to happen, we will have to figure out some way to make apartments and small rental properties available and to have jobs of some kind that will help these people stay and pay their rent or mortgages. And, we need parking for residents and businesses. If we don’t want to have those things in reality, when push comes to shove, then we should stop giving lip service to the idea that we do want more people, including those who work for a living, to live here.

While there are new families and younger households that have already moved into the region due to COVID migration, they are not often part of the local economy, but rather working remotely. Their children may enter the public school system, but they may more likely instead be part of the private school community. It’s our wish that those who move here, though, would realize they would benefit themselves from taking the time to learn about and become part of their residential communities.

This area is more than just a place to find a home and be safer during a pandemic. It’s quite unlike an apartment building where you move in and have your own space, a bubble. These communities have long histories, and longtime residents who value their history. It takes people stepping up to volunteer and learn their towns’ histories to make this a better place for them to live  even if that means quibbling at public meetings, as long as it’s done with respect, truth and honesty.

It would be much better for the region and all who live here if all the towns here get more affordable housing built, and if their residents would stop tearing each other to shreds in the process. This could be helped by discussing town issues face to face, as noted above, rather than on social media, where it’s easier to put out ill-informed statements without accountability being meted out fairly.

It’s a complicated time in so many ways, but let’s not allow the isolation that happens during flare-ups of COVID to create unnecessary division on issues like affordable housing that can negatively affect our region long term if not addressed in a way that reflects compromise but also effectiveness. This will define what Northwest Corner communities become, so now is the time to think hard about who we want to be.

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